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Life Coaches Facebook Ads Breached ASA Rules

The ASA (Advertising Standards Agency) made a recent ruling on some Facebook adverts run by some life coaches. We felt it was important to bring your attention to this and give you an overview of the issues and of the ruling itself.

Most of this information was taken directly from the ASA’s website and has been reproduced word for word, particularly the content of the Facebook ads themselves and the majority of the rulings by the ASA.

About The Advert

The ruling was about three Facebook ads by The Speakmans (Life Coaches) for motivational workshops in July 2018. They posted ‘Upgrade Your Life with The Speakmans’ workshop.

The first ad showed a testimonial from someone who’d attended their workshop. It said: 

‘if you can, attend one of The Speakmans workshops. I went recently and its [sic] changed my life. A girl was cured of a phobia of spiders on stage in 10mins, another lady of PTSD and my lifelong emetophobia was cured. I feel so different and would definitely attend another 1’.

The second ad had a testimonial from an attendee at their workshop who said:

‘I went to a workshop in Jan [sic]. I have bipolar, GAD, BPD … all diagnosed for years. Made more progress in 1 day with the amazing @thespeakmans than the previous 5 years, when I had all kinds of therapy and courses. Highly recommend! Booked again for Oct [sic]!’.

The third ad said: 

Here’s a little insight into our recent #UpgradeYourLife workshop covering anxiety, phobias, fear, OCD, PTSD, panic attacks, motivation, confidence happiness, positivity and more. For more details email events@XXXX … Emma (@XXX on Twitter): ‘I went to a workshop in Jan [sic]. I have bipolar, GAP BPD, OCD, all diagnosed for many years. Made more progress in 1 day with the amazing @thespeakmans than the previous 5 years, when I had all kinds of therapy & courses’.

The Issue

The complaint questioned if:
The claims to treat the health and medical problems in all three ads were misleading and could not be proven.
The ads deterred essential treatment for the conditions listed and for which, medical help should be sought.

The Response

The Speakmans responded to the issues. Regarding issue one, they said that:

  • The ads did not offer any treatment for health or medical problems.
  • The ads were promoting a motivational workshop and they were simply quoting a word for word testimonial from one of their delegates and that reposting a social medial post from one of their clients could not be seen as making any claims about treatment of health or medical problems.
  • The ads only had an email address to enquire and no way to purchase without emailing first.
  • They informed anyone enquiring about the workshop that it was not a therapy session but a motivational workshop.
  • They removed all three ads as soon as they got the complaint.

Regarding issue two, they said:

  • They didn’t deter anyone from getting medical treatment for any condition.
  • They told anyone who attended their workshops and had mental health issues to speak to their GP or other health professional.
  •  A view could not be taken about whether they discouraged treatment without actually going to one of their workshops and they provided additional excellent testimonials
  • They informed anyone enquiring about the workshop that it was not a therapy session but a motivational workshop to help improve mental health and help attendees feel more enlightened and happier.

The Outcome

The ASA upheld the complaint made on issue one.

This was because although the ads made no specific claims to treat the conditions listed, they did suggest that the workshops could provide treatment of these conditions.

The ASA also said that any claims should be supported by evidence, including trials on people. Because The Speakmans did not provide this evidence, the claims were misleading.

The ASA also upheld the complaint made on issue two.

This was because the CAP Code says that marketing must not discourage essential treatment for medical conditions that require medical supervision unless that advice was given under supervision by an appropriately qualified medical professional.

Ads A, B and C all referred to conditions that needed medical supervision and the ASA said that they felt consumers would interpret the ads to mean that they would get specific advice or treatment from The Speakmans for those conditions.

Again, no evidence was given that their workshops were supervised by an appropriate medical professional and so they breached the code.

The Speakmans must make sure that these ads do not appear again and they must not state or imply that they can treat any medical condition without evidence to support these claims. They were told to make sure that no ads discouraged treatment from for the conditions listed.

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